Thursday, June 17, 2010

Comic Books Baby...

Ramblings Post #106
I like those things I like. I will not apologize for them. Well, not for the ones that aren't illegal (in which case I don't know what you're talking about). And what I've done as I've grown older, is learn to cultivate pleasure in small things. A good book. A quiet moment. Nudity. Those things that either cost little or nothing but enrich life and make the world a little sweeter. Because you never know when you'll be broke. Especially in this economy.

I love comic books. I have loved and read comic books since I was ten years old or so, when I bought my first one and was hooked. I used to have to hide them, as my mother - who was a school teacher and encouraged reading - was distraught over the clutter my continuing purchases would bring. At work I would slip down the block and half to this spot called the News Stand where they sold papers, comics and used books. It was there that my passion for reading blossomed, as comics were still fifty cents and I could buy books for $2.

I've always really been more Marvel than DC, with the exception of Batman. (Batman is just too damn cool) It always to me seemed like DC characters lived a little too far into a fantasy world, where nobody recognized superman when his only disguise was a pair of glasses. I remember one issue where Spiderman came home to an empty fridge, or where they had a duo who called themselves "Heroes for Hire". They just seemed a little more grounded.

I stopped reading X-men and Spiderman and the like when you realized you'd grown up by the characters were still and always would be 20 years old and ridiculously in shape. That and you had to buy all the various incarnations of Amazing, Web of, Spectacular, Pick another adjective Spidey and X-Force, Uncanny, New Mutants, or X-something else cool to keep up with the story lines. Even as the story lines got more mature, and alluding to things like racism and murder, I kind of drifted away. Well, not all the way away, if the art is good I'll still pick up a book.

For example, after reading Howard Chaykin's venerable American Flagg series, which involved a dystopian future, black market basketball, and politics so dirty you couldn't scrub them clean with steel wool, I found that good art is the key to getting me reading. I'll still read anything I can find by Chaykin, even though his hero always seems to look the same no matter the title.

Currently I'm reading Phil Foglio's Girl Genius, a deep and richly textured alternate earth gas light adventure, which has to be on what would normally be issue 55 or so. The characters have depth, there is a back story out of this world. And if you're halfway interested, the whole thing is online for FREE!! That said, I went out and bought the books he sells so he can pay the rent.
(NOTE TO RECORD INDUSTRY: See you can give the stuff away and people will still pay for it anyway. If it's good. Oh, wait, that if it's good applies, so never mind.)

I also just got into another online series, Spacetrawler, which a kooky little tale about ordinary people picked to save the universe, or something, who aren't quite ordinary. Unlike the usual assortment of brave souls, you've got your wackos, vegans, and pacifists all having to work out something. Throw in a perv, a man I can only describe as an paranoid nut and Russian tea cookies and suddenly you've got a story that so far actually has teeth.

On actual paper, a new title that picked up on a whim is Chew, another alternate earth story where due to the bird flu chickens are outlawed, and so the FDA becomes the most powerful police force in the country as it tracks down black market chicken. No joke. I sounds stupid, I know, but the lead is a guy who for whatever he eats (besides beets) can see its complete history. Which is a surprisingly useful tool. I picked up the first two issues because I thought it would be cheesy, but I'm now a fan.

My latest find is King City, by a guy named Brandon Graham. He reminds me a bit of Sergio Aragones, the infamous Groo artist who, if drawing a group of 100 soldiers would take the time to draw 100 different faces and expressions. King City's art is so dense you know some of the images you know are just throwaways, but the attention to detail is just cool. Even better, the story is engaging, but reads like a story should with no wasted exposition.

I love a good read.

Barkeep, let me get a nice tall whiskey and ginger.

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